Ask Mickey: Can MyPlate Keep the Pounds Off?

Can the MyPlate food guidance system help me avoid gaining the unwanted pounds that result from too many food choices plus too much time in front of my computer?

myplate_greenExpanded dining choices and/or more sedentary time can both impact your ability to maintain a healthy weight. The MyPlate food guidance provided by the U.S.  Department of Agriculture at choosemyplate.gov offers a set of tools that can help you build a healthier diet, tailored to your own nutrient needs depending on age, activity level, and other factors. Whether you choose to use the online program or not, the MyPlate graphic icon can serve as a visual reminder of what a healthy, balanced plate should look like at most meals.

When you’re dining at a Bon Appétit café, we make it easy to find options that fit MyPlate recommendations, by identifying In Balance meals that offer plenty of fruits and vegetables with smaller portions of whole grains and lean proteins. Look for the purple In Balance circular icon on your cafés menu signs to know which items qualify.

INBalanceWhether it’s called In Balance or MyPlate, the kind of meal that will help you maintain a healthy weight  begins with an abundant portion of fruits and/or vegetables. MyPlate shows half the plate filled with produce, which is high in nutrients and filling fiber, while being low in calories. The key here is to be cautious about any high-calorie add-ons that sometimes accompany vegetables, such as creamy sauces or bacon bits. Better to go with a plain or lightly dressed option to let the naturally delicious flavors of the food shine while keeping the calories (and pounds) in check.

Approximately one-quarter of the plate should be taken up with a grain. In Balance meals feature only whole grains, while MyPlate suggests that at least half of your grains over the day should be whole grains. Interesting choices such as quinoa, barley, and amaranth give you plenty of options for the kinds of foods that will release steady energy slowly throughout the day, while more common standbys such as whole-wheat pasta or brown rice let you make many favorite meals more nutritious.

The final quarter of the plate should be filled with a lean protein, which will help create a sense of satisfaction so you don’t get hungry too quickly after the meal. It gives your body the nutrients needed for building muscle, maintaining immunity, and ensuring healthy skin and hair, among other benefits. Plant-based proteins such as beans, tofu, nuts, and seeds offer additional benefits like fiber, antioxidants, and other micronutrients as well as having a lighter environmental impact than animal proteins.

12-3790_bamco_askmickey_web-157x300Rounding this out with plant-based fats (such as olive oil or avocados) will help you absorb all these nutrients, and small portions helps keep calories in check. Making these whole, healthful foods the basis of your diet, while reducing the amount of highly processed and sugary “treats” you consume, will keep you in a healthy weight range, even when making life’s big transitions.

 

About Ask Mickey: At Bon Appétit, we know there’s a lot on your plate that you worry about. Making good food choices helps you avoid unwanted pounds, work or study (and sleep!) better, and form long-lasting healthy eating habits. In the Ask Mickey column, a team of Bon Appétit Management Company dietitians and chefs offers tips on “chewing the right thing” and answers your nutrition questions. (Mickey, aka Michelina, is a particular feisty Italian grandmother who continues to inspire us.) Email your questions and feedback to nutrition@cafebonappetit.com or text (650) 308-9594.